Buffy’s grip on his right elbow was firm. Not Slayer-firm, thank goodness, but quite firm enough to propel Giles toward his couch. His attempt to assert control and move toward his kitchen and the whistling kettle was entirely thwarted.
“Sit,” she told him.
Giles huffed and remained solidly on his feet. “I have merely fractured my wrist, which is expected to knit itself quite nicely. I am not an invalid, Buffy.”
“But you are a grouch.”
“Nevertheless my patootie.” Willow glared at him, and to his surprise succeeded in intimidating him all the way down to a sitting position on his couch. Which was more of a relief than he was willing to admit, because apparently he’d done something to his ankle as well. “Which wrist is that I see a cast on?”
“The left,” said Giles, entirely aware he was being exactly as grouchy as accused.
“Do I have to connect the dots for you or is that big Oxford brain going to draw the picture for me?”
“A picture of what?” Xander said. He held a pillow in his hands, and wedged it behind Giles on the couch, completely unnecessarily.
“A tesseract!” Willow said, and Xander snorted.
Buffy loomed over them, insofar as a girl her height could loom. “I know what that is! It’s the flying dinosaur. No, wait, that’s a tesseractyl. Hey. Tea incoming. I’ll even let you hold the cup if you promise to use your right hand.”
Giles closed his eyes. There was no fighting Buffy when she got into one of these moods. Give in, old man, and let the Slayer tsunami pass over him. He opened his eyes again. Buffy was balancing a tray in one hand, upon which Giles could see his teapot, a pitcher of milk, and a plate of something. “Tea’s up,” she said, unnecessarily.
“Cookies!” Xander darted a hand out, but Buffy slapped him away.
“The injured Watcher gets first shot.”
She’d found his stash of chocolate digestives at the back of the shelf, the ones he had to go to Los Angeles to get and saved for special occasions. Probably she’d seen him take them out on one of those special late-night Slayer-Watcher tea-drinking and commiseration sessions. Not that he was complaining. He felt he deserved a bit of commiseration. His wrist was aching, rather. He watched Buffy pour milk into his favorite mug and found he didn’t have the energy to demand to do it himself.
Buffy handed the mug to him handle-first.
“Right hand. Right.”
Giles shifted the cup to his off hand, the one without the bloody annoying plastic cast on it. He held it under his nose for a moment, then had a cautious taste. The tea was good. Just the right temperature, not too much sugar, a bit of milk. Buffy appeared to have been paying attention to something he’d never expected her even to notice. He opened his mouth to tell her so, but she’d moved on to pouring out tea for Xander and Willow as well. Xander dunked a biscuit into his cup then shoved it into Buffy’s mouth. She laughed and sputtered crumbs at him.
Giles drank his tea. Then he sat up straight: a dismaying thought had come to him. “What happened to Pryce?” he asked.
Willow answered. “Buffy sent him home with a bug in his ear.”
“If that means that she yelled at him first, yeah, that’s what happened to him,” said Xander.
“Good,” said Giles, both to learning that Pryce had come through it unscathed, and that Buffy had told him off.
“What is with that guy, Giles? I swear I had to tell him which end of the sword was the pointy one.”
“We all learn somehow.”
“Yeah, but some of us learn faster. Hasn’t he had a whole bunch of classes in vampire fighting?”
“Something like that, yes. Fifteen years of training. Head boy at the Academy. Or so he’s informed me.”
“Fat lot of use that was. The guy doesn’t even know how to whittle stakes.” Xander was rather good at stake-whittling, good enough that Giles had turned the task over to him entirely. To his relief, since he’d always hated it.
Willow untied his shoes and pulled them off one at a time. “What was he doing, coming here to a Hellmouth with zero clue?”
“I had no clue when I arrived here.”
“But you’d killed demons before.” Buffy picked up the tea things and piled them haphazardly on the tray again.
“Yes. But I was a bit of ah, hrm, thrillseeker in my youth.”
“We’re not talking about your youth!” Buffy said, from the kitchen.
“Yes, thanks, was born already aged forty in jacket and tie, got it.” Willow thumped him in the shoulder. “Ow,” he said, though it hadn’t in truth hurt. She responded predictably, by fussing over him twice as hard, and Giles at last allowed himself to enjoy it.
Willow tucked herself into the corner of the sofa opposite him, with textbook, notebook, and five different colored pens. Xander was face-down on the floor, nose in something that looked like a comic book.
Giles said, “Don’t you lot have homes to go to?”
Xander sat up and looked around himself ostentatiously. “Yup. Staying for the night.” Then he thumped back down to the floor.
Giles put his weight on his good foot, braced himself on his good wrist, and attempted to stand up. Buffy stuck a hand on his chest and pushed him right back down on the sofa.
“You need anything? I’ll get whatever it is. 'Cause you are not straining yourself any more tonight, Mister.”
Giles sighed. “Would you hand me the library book on my desk? The one with the bookmark in it.”
Buffy brought the book over to him and perched on the arm of the sofa next to him. Giles tilted his head at her. She leaned close to him and whispered. “You need us to bug out and let you sleep?”
“No, thanks, not tired. Think I’ll just sit up with you for a bit and read.”
Buffy bent over him and pressed a fast kiss against his cheek. Then she’d sprung away from him and was in motion across the flat, shutting off the lights at his front door. She alighted in his armchair with a book, a school textbook, he was pleased to see. Giles returned to his novel. The prose was not sharp, nor the action so fast-paced as to keep his attention focused. He yawned.
Some time later, he woke to find the flat gone dark and quiet. Willow’s head was against the shoulder of his good arm, and he could see Buffy curled up in his armchair. Xander was sprawled on the woolen throw before the fireplace. He could still feel the place on his cheek where Buffy had kissed him.